Every Bunt of the 2023 Postseason, Ranked

Joe Rondone/The Republic/USA TODAY NETWORK

You might have noticed a surfeit of bunting in this postseason, or at least it seemed that way because Geraldo Perdomo was in the World Series. I, the man who launched an impromptu Bunt Week two months ago, could not let the opportunity pass to sit in judgment of these bunts.

We often decry the sacrifice bunt as a needless waste of outs, but a bunt for a hit can be one of the most audacious, skilled plays in the sport, as beautiful in its own way as a light-tower home run. In fact, every bunt is distinctive and wonderful, and so each must be examined — all 26 of them — for procedural and results-based value, tactical and strategic context, as well as aesthetic value. These are just the 26 bunts that resulted in action, according to Baseball Savant, so be warned: failed bunt attempts are not featured. If you’re looking for that failed Trea Turner push bunt in Game 7 of the NLCS, you will not find it here. (Though for the record, I didn’t hate it.)

Let us judge the bunts.

26. Jose Altuve pops out to Jordan Montgomery with runners at the corners and two out in the top of the fifth inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, with the Astros leading 1-0.

Altuve is a great bunter normally, but this was an absolute disgrace. With two outs, there’s no value to a sacrifice. With a runner on third, he has to get the ball far away from the plate in order to enable Kyle Tucker to score, but with a force play at second there’s no scenario in which an infielder fields the ball and looks around waiting for an idea to occur to him while Altuve scurries to first.

This is also, it bears mentioning, Houston’s second-best hitter laying one down with two men on in a one-run game. While he’s ahead in the count, on a pitch that was outside the strike zone. He should be trying to pile runs on, not play tiddly-winks while the game hangs in the balance. I can’t even give Altuve credit for getting the bunt down, because the bunt, such as it is, flops over right in front of Jonah Heim, who throws him out by like 10 feet. Of all 26 bunts, this had the second-worst Win Probability Added, at minus-.055. What a nightmare. I detest it with all my heart and soul.

25. Jose Siri pops out to Jordan Montgomery with runners at the corners and one out in the bottom of the second inning of Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series, with the Rays trailing 1-0.

A phenomenal play by Montgomery, who was on the receiving end of four of these bunts. That makes sense, because there were definitely times this postseason when it felt like Montgomery was the only pitcher in the world.

But had Monty not laid out, Nathaniel Lowe would’ve made this catch in his sleep, because this is a deplorable bunt, the only one more damaging to the hitting team’s cause than Altuve’s. Siri takes a pitch way up in the zone and pops it right up into the air. Never mind that, this is another runners-at-the-corners situation fairly early in a close game. A squeeze bunt is a tough play, particularly as Curtis Mead, the runner on third, isn’t exactly Billy Hamilton.

Siri doesn’t have the plate discipline God gave a sea urchin, but he’s got some power. Enough that with a runner on third and less than two outs, perhaps the smart option is to try to hit the ball into the outfield and get the run home — perhaps he could even have put a ball in the gap and scored two. Two runs, incidentally, is as many as the Rays have scored, in total, across their last two postseason appearances.

24. Ryan Jeffers hits into a fielder’s choice off Phil Maton with runners at the corners and one out in the top of the fifth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS, with the Twins leading 5-0.

This is not entirely Jeffers’ fault. He gets the bunt down to the third base side of the mound against a right-handed pitcher. But he gets a little too much of it, and Maton doesn’t really fall off the mound at all; he ends his delivery balanced and in perfect fielding position. Maton is on it so quickly that on first viewing, I thought Royce Lewis had made an inexplicable decision to wander off of third base rather than going on contact.

Nevertheless, it quickly turns into a farce. Maton nearly overthrows Alex Bregman at third, and a bit of momentary confusion by the Astros almost leads to Lewis sneaking home. It didn’t end up mattering, as the Twins were already up 5-0, but that raises the question: Why are the Twins calling for a squeeze play up five runs? Surely that’s just a bit too cute. Not the most damaging play, but a truly hideous one.

23. Willi Castro pops out off Cristian Javier with nobody on and two out in the bottom of the second inning of Game 3 of the ALDS, with the Twins trailing 4-0.

(spits on the ground in disgust)

I have some sympathy for Castro, who was simply trying to reach base against Javier, who to that point had allowed one hit in his previous 12 postseason innings, and just 15 hits in 34 1/3 postseason innings for his career. It’s the kind of situation where it’s understandable to be out of ideas on the second pitch of your first at-bat of the game.

But I cannot abide a bunt being popped up like that. Bunting for a hit with two outs and the bottom of the lineup coming up is a pretty low-upside play anyway. At least get the damn thing down and in fair territory.

22. Gabriel Moreno sacrifice bunts against Nathan Eovaldi with runners on first and second and nobody out in the bottom of the third inning of Game 5 of the World Series, with the score tied 0-0.

Before I sat down to put this column together, I wrote down relevant information about each bunt in a spreadsheet. My notes on this play, in full: “WTF.”

In terms of the stakes and the outcome, bunting here was probably the biggest unforced error of the entire postseason. Again, it’s too early in the game to play for one run. Moreno is either Arizona’s third- or fourth-best hitter, depending on how much you want to debit Christian Walker for looking so lost at the plate Kermit the Frog popped out from behind him to ask if he’s tried Hare Krishna. With two men on and nobody out, Moreno is the guy you want up there to bang a ball into the gap and break the game open.

More than that, Moreno had never laid down a successful sacrifice bunt at any level in his entire professional career. A tied elimination game in the World Series is quite a time and place to experiment.

So why isn’t this no. 26? Because first and second with nobody out is the best base-out state for a sacrifice bunt, one of the few scenarios in which it’s basically value-neutral if you want to score multiple runs. And Moreno got the bunt down.

21. Michael A. Taylor grounds out against Yusei Kikuchi to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series, with the Twins leading 2-0.

I don’t hate the idea, but I hate the execution. Fast runner, leading off an inning, get on base by any means necessary. And with a two-run lead in the fifth, you can afford to risk spending an out on a gamble. Taylor got the bunt down, but he hit it way too hard, into the direction Kikuchi was coming off the mound. More concerningly, he hit it straight to Matt Chapman, who makes this play 10 times out of 10, even if he’s holding a turkey sandwich in his throwing hand.

20. Daulton Varsho sacrifice bunts off Sonny Gray with runners on first and second and one out in the top of the second inning of Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series, with the score tied 0-0.

Varsho is an excellent bunter, and you could tell the sacrifice bunt was a fallback plan here; the aim was for him to get on base. A “sac-cidentally-on-purpose” bunt, if you will. But he doesn’t place it that well and gets thrown out easily; the ball either has to get past Gray or stay closer to the line in order for Varsho to have a shot at reaching. And moving the runners up is less useful when the next hitter comes up with two outs instead of one. Disappointing execution of an indifferent idea.

19. Geraldo Perdomo sacrifice bunts against Ranger Suárez with a runner on first on and one out in the top of the fifth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Diamondbacks trailing 2-1.

Perdomo was this postseason’s most prolific bunter, with six. Nobody else had more than two. This one is fine. If Perdomo were the iconic English post-grunge band Bush, this bunt would be his Razorblade Suitcase. (Less than a third of the way into this list and the pop culture references are already bouncing off of rock bottom.) It gets a runner into scoring position with one out for the top of the lineup, but it’s indifferent, a lackluster ball bounced straight to Suárez, an exceptional defender, and gives Perdomo no chance to reach base himself. It leaves me cold.

I don’t know if it’s fair to put this on Perdomo, but this bunt was part of the inning that won the Diamondbacks the pennant, and it’s one of two outs Arizona made more or less on purpose. (Moreno drew a throw on an RBI single to allow the go-ahead run to score, but it ended the inning.) It feels like this inning could’ve been even bigger than it was, not that anyone in Arizona is complaining about the result.

18. Evan Longoria sacrifice bunts off Jordan Montgomery with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the third inning of Game 2 of the World Series, with the score tied 0-0.

I’ve posited this theory before, but I think most sacrifice bunts are less about tactical utility than they are about the manager needing to feel like he’s in control. This isn’t football; a manager only has a few buttons to press, and sometimes when the moment gets big and he starts to freak out a little, he’ll press whatever button is available at that point in time. That’s how you end up with the Diamondbacks turning a runner on first and nobody out into a perfunctory bunt situation by the time the World Series rolled around, even when Longoria hadn’t laid a sac bunt down in nine years.

The bunt itself is textbook, though. Nice job by the old man.

17. Brice Turang sacrifice bunts off Brandon Pfaadt with a runner on first and nobody out in the bottom of the second inning of Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series, with the Brewers leading 1-0.

I think it’s too early to play for one run, in the second inning with an untested rookie on the mound. (We did not know then what Pfaadt would ultimately become this October.) I don’t like the execution, straight back at the mound. It gives Turang no chance to force a close play at first. It looks like a pitcher’s bunt from the 1990s. On the other hand, Turang played a lot for the Brewers this year (137 games) and was pretty bad at the plate (60 wRC+), so maybe you just take this instead of risking a strikeout or a double play.

16. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., sacrifice bunts off Chris Stratton with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the eighth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, with the Diamondbacks leading 4-1.

Gurriel gets this ball up in the air, which displeases me, but he also pushes it far enough to the left side that Stratton has to make a perfect play on the ball to throw him out. I’ll call it a draw. Up three runs and chasing a fourth late in the game, this bunt is a win probability negative, but not by very much. It’s fine.

15. Martín Maldonado sacrifice bunts off Sonny Gray with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the second inning of Game 3 of the ALDS, with the Astros leading 4-0.

Basically the only people who thought Maldonado should be in the lineup this postseason were Maldonado himself and Astros skipper Dusty Baker. During the action, Fox play-by-play man Adam Amin calls Maldonado “one of the best sacrifice bunters in baseball,” and with a 66 wRC+ in 117 games, I should hope that would be the case. The Astros are already up big, it’s early in the inning, and Maldonado is a double play risk. It’s a perfectly defensible call, and he gets the man over easily.

14. Geraldo Perdomo sacrifice bunts off Bobby Miller with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the second inning of Game 2 of the NLDS, with the Diamondbacks leading 3-0.

13. Geraldo Perdomo sacrifice bunts off Evan Phillips with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS, with the Diamondbacks leading 4-2.

12. Geraldo Perdomo sacrifice bunts off Andrew Heaney with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, with the Diamondbacks leading 3-1.

11. Geraldo Perdomo sacrifice bunts off Nathan Eovaldi with runners on first and second and nobody out in the third inning of Game 1 of the World Series, with the Rangers trailing 2-0.

These four bunts range from businesslike to deft. You understand why Perdomo does this so often, because he’s money. I have decided, perhaps unwisely, to extend the Bush metaphor; these bunts are The Science of Things, Golden State, and Gavin Rossdale’s appearance in the Keanu Reeves Constantine film.

The bunt off Miller isn’t anything special, but there’s some lovely technique involved in the bunts off both Phillips and Heaney. Perdomo drags the former toward first base, and angles his bat beautifully to make sure the latter bunt actually gets down, even though the pitch is up and out of the zone. (Are you listening, Jose Siri?)

The bunt off Eovaldi leads the group not because the bunt itself is anything special, but because I like bunting with runners on first and second more than I like bunting with a single runner on first. With the Diamondbacks trailing, the context might be a bit of a wash, but it was early in the game and having a runner on first with one out can still be a precursor to a big inning.

10. Jorge Polanco sacrifice bunts off Framber Valdez with runners on first and second and nobody out in the top of the fifth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS, with the Twins leading 3-0.

Close to a sac-cidentally-on-purpose bunt, as Polanco legs it out for a close play at first. But that doesn’t really mean the bunt itself was especially well-placed. Valdez gets on the ball quickly enough that he has time to look at the lead runner headed for third, and hesitates while he thinks about throwing there. That hesitation lets Polanco get within a long step of reaching base.

Some contextual circumstances put this bunt higher up on the list. First, it did lead to a big inning. With these runners in scoring position, Lewis followed with a walk, then Carlos Correa plated them with a single. (The play after that was Jeffers’ fish-in-the-microwave play from earlier.) Second, of all the sacrifice bunts in this postseason, this was the only play with a positive WPA: 0.001.

9. Manuel Margot sacrifice bunts off Jordan Montgomery with a runner on first and nobody out in the bottom of the second inning of Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series, with the Rays trailing 1-0.

Once again, a pretty good bunt precedes a horrendous one, as Siri’s pop-out followed later this inning. The Playoff Gumby Creation Myth seems to owe quite a bit to the Rays’ propensity for giving away outs.

Margot got under this one a little, but it dropped in front of Montgomery, who was a little slow getting off the mound and only barely got the out. An exemplary sac-cidentally-on-purpose bunt. If I have a nit to pick here, it’s that I would’ve rather Margot pushed the ball to the other side of the mound, away from where Montgomery’s momentum was taking him.

If Margot gets the ball over there, Lowe would’ve had to make the play on it, drawing him off the bag, and second baseman Marcus Semien was nowhere near a position where he could cover first. The pitch was on the outside part of the plate anyway. Still, pretty solid.

8. Johan Rojas sacrifice bunts off Brandon Pfaadt with a runner on first and nobody out in the bottom of the third inning of Game 7 of the NLCS, with the score tied 1-1.

This is the Margot bunt, but with a faster runner. With a right-handed pitcher on the mound, a push bunt takes Pfaadt’s momentum into the ball and makes for an easier play, but the pitcher lets the ball drop for an extra bounce, which almost costs him the out. On one hop he probably could’ve thrown Rojas out with ease, but instead he has to make an awkward gather off the grass and it’s a bang-bang play.

I’d say Margot executed his bunt better, but at a higher opportunity cost. Margot is an above-average hitter against lefties, while Rojas’ best chance of reaching against a right-handed pitcher might actually be a bunt. Still, if you wanted to flip these two I wouldn’t argue.

7. Leody Taveras grounds out off Kevin Ginkel to lead off the top of the eighth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, with the Rangers leading 1-0.

A textbook bunt-for-hit. Worth it from the no. 8 hitter in a one-run game against a reliever who hadn’t allowed a run all postseason. Taveras placed it nicely to the left side, drawing the two defenders into each other. Longoria had to barehand the ball while Ginkel sort of hopped over his hands, and Walker made a nice scoop on the other end. And Taveras still almost beat it out. Good idea, nice execution, but the Diamondbacks snuffed it out.

6. Corbin Carroll grounds out off Cody Bradford to lead off the top of the seventh inning of Game 1 of the World Series, with the Diamondbacks trailing 5-3.

Carroll can mash, so when he lays a bunt down he needs to get his money’s worth. This was a beauty, a looping ball against the pitcher’s momentum that flops down in no-man’s land. Bradford needed to play it perfectly in order to get the out, and unfortunately for Carroll, he did.

5. Corbin Carroll sacrifice bunts off Gregory Soto with a runner on second and nobody out in the top of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the NLCS, with the Diamondbacks leading 5-1.

Again, forcing a left-handed pitcher to make a tough play against his momentum. Soto only barely gets a handle on the ball in time to flip it to Bryce Harper for the out. This bunt has the added sac-cidentally-on-purpose benefit of moving Perdomo to third with one out in a four-run game. (We’ll get to how Perdomo wound up on base in a second.) A fly ball from Ketel Marte would’ve scored Perdomo and put the Diamondbacks more than a grand slam ahead, making it a two-possession game against an offense that hit so many home runs you start saying things like “two possession game.”

In short, it pays to be the fastest everyday player in baseball.

4. Christian Yelich singles off Kevin Ginkel to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series, with the Brewers trailing 5-2.

There are bunts against the shift, and then there are bunts against the shift. This one is a beauty, a silky smooth slice of cheesecake with a berry compote topping. Would you rather have Yelich swing away, needing three runs in six outs to keep the season going? Maybe. But paradoxically, down three runs that late in the game, the Brewers just needed baserunners. Yelich got something going on the first pitch of the inning; that’s good enough for me.

3. Jose Altuve singles off Pablo López to lead off the bottom of the first inning of Game 2 of the ALDS, with the Astros trailing 1-0.

See, this is the Altuve bunt we were expecting. Again, maybe you want Altuve to take a shot at the Crawford Boxes, but López is in a class of pitcher who’s so tough that any hitter is happy to reach base off him through any means.

Also, this was a beauty. Altuve saw the infield back and dropped a perfect roller into the grass. Kyle Farmer gave up on the play before the ball even got to him — that’s how you know it was a good bunt.

2. Geraldo Perdomo singles off Gregory Soto, then advances to second on an error, to lead off the top of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the NLCS, with the Diamondbacks leading 5-1.

Ah, Sixteeen Stone.

This was Perdomo’s only bunt hit among six sacrifices, and he got the ball far enough away from J.T. Realmuto that Soto had to make the play himself. By the time Soto got the throw off he was slipping and tumbling every which way. The throw was low, but perhaps not unplayable for Harper if Perdomo had not been diving headfirst into first base just as the ball arrived.

I don’t know if that’s why he left his feet, or if Harper would’ve been able to pluck the ball from between Perdomo’s legs had he stayed upright, but either way, the ball went out into right field, and Perdomo was able to take an extra base as a souvenir. The capstone bunt by the 2023 postseason’s capstone bunter.

1. Ketel Marte singles off Bobby Miller with a runner on first and nobody out in the top of the first inning of Game 2 of the NLDS, with the score tied 0-0.

This is as good a bunt as you’ll ever see in your life. To move one seam of the ball would be to diminish it. Marte was in the first week of a spectacular postseason, but even a hitter as hot as he was can recognize when the Dodgers are leaving the entire left side of the infield open. Miller left the ball up in the zone, a difficult pitch to bunt, but Marte knocked it into the ground along the left side and singled without drawing a throw.

Plays like this, they make me understand why crotchety old-school types are the way they are. Not only is this bunt play effective, it’s cheeky. It’s insouciant. And Marte makes it look so freaking easy, too. How could you view a bunt like that and not want to see it three times a game? I appreciate an upper-deck homer as much as the next guy, but this? This is art.

More than that, it’s the best bunt of the 2023 postseason.





Michael is a writer at FanGraphs. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Ringer and D1Baseball, and his work has appeared at Grantland, Baseball Prospectus, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, and various ill-remembered Phillies blogs. Follow him on Twitter, if you must, @MichaelBaumann.

17 Comments
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tyke
3 months ago

that moreno bunt made me mad

mgwalker
3 months ago
Reply to  tyke

I was similarly flummoxed by the Rangers bringing in the infield to cut down what would have been the game’s first run — in the first inning. It happened to work out for them though…

Another Old Guymember
3 months ago
Reply to  tyke

My comment is exactly what Michael wrote in this excellent article. The Moreno bunt gave up an out. It seems like hitting the ball to the right side of the diamond to advance runners or possible find a hole for a hit is a disappearing art.

cowdisciplemember
3 months ago
Reply to  tyke

Especially when it seemed so unlikely that they’d be able to hold the Rangers to fewer than 5 runs.